Linux Certs Gaining Popularity Among IT Pros

IT certifications evoke expectations of both software and systems administration skillsets, but jokes abound about how little knowledge so-and-so with such-and-such a certificate has.

One thing is clear: Although Microsoft Windows andCisco certifications continue to be the biggest, the importance ofLinux certifications is on the rise. Linux occupies prominent positions in CertCities “10 Hottest Certifications of 2006” list, for example.

Linux occupies prominent positions in CertCities “10 Hottest Certifications of 2006,” for example. For the first time, the list was led by Linux, with the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) credential on top.

“If you’re looking for yet another sign that Linux is becoming a real player, then you’ve got it,” wrote CertCities’ Becky Nagel. “Quite a feat — especially when you consider that the vast majority of CertCities.com’s readers are Windows professionals.”

Hot Certs

The list does not comprise the most popular certifications, but rather includes those that are likely to be most influential in the coming year — “the ones that will grow the fastest, the ones that we think will show the true future of IT certification,” as Nagel put it.

RHCE topped the list of ten hottest certs, with Microsoft maintaining its presence with the No. 2 and No. 3 spots for SQL and .Net certified specialists and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA).

Other certifications on the list included the fourth, fifth and sixth hottest certs from Cisco; with a tie at fourth for the Project Management Professional (PMP) cert; MCSE and SSCP security certs at eight and nine; and Linux again in the tenth spot with Linux Professional Institute Certification, Level 2 (LPIC 2) — described by CertCities as “the only major offering for mid-level Linux administrators looking to earn a truly vendor-neutral title.”

Looking for Linux Specifics

Nonetheless, Linux certifications have not risen to the mainstream acceptance level of Microsoft certifications, such as the MCA, Illuminata senior analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider.

Still, the importance of Linux certifications will rise as the open-source operating system sees more use by enterprise organizations, he predicts, and Linux certifications make more sense.

Beyond the Guru

Some certifications, including Microsoft’s, are met with criticism or ridicule by some engineers, Haff said. However, certifications do typically represent a fairly in-depth familiarity with IT skill sets or tasks.

Although there is often confusion as to what type of certifications companies want, there is a realization that organizations cannot rely on “the Unix guru with a big beard who knows everything about Unix and Linux and everything,” Haff remarked. “Certifications are a reflection of mainstream and wide deployment and the realization you can’t always have the guru.”

Supply and Demand

The value and popularity of IT certifications are tied to supply and demand, said John Challenger, CEO of IT outsourcing and jobs analysis firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

There is no question that after Microsoft and Cisco certifications, the next most important certs are for Linux, he told LinuxInsider, describing RHCE as “a valuable experience and acknowledgment of the person’s skills.”

“There’s no question that as more and more open source gets utilized, becomes standardized, and more organizations are using it, the demand for people to operate, maintain, build and develop it increases,” he said. “It’s only going to grow.”

Linux certifications will become increasingly significant as they become a way to evaluate skills for companies needing people who know Linux but do not have the means to verify candidates’ abilities, Challenger added.

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